Guru Granth Sahib on pilgrimage and fasting

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Sikhism is against pilgrimages and fasts, whatever may be the socio- political, religious, traditional or cultural justifications which may be extended by anyone. The Sikh Gurus visited some of these places as historians and explorers to demonstrate the futility to such journeys and to show the devotees the true path to God.

People who go on pilgrimage give various reasons, excuses and pretexts for their actions - some of these are :-

  • A mere ritual, branded as religious formality by their spiritually blind leaders.
  • To flex socio-political muscle & show off monetary strength to their adversaries.
  • Social projection of one's false image of spirituality and person endowed with saintly qualities.
  • Just for the Sake of some for fun, change and as a holidays and time to relax.
  • False notion that it washes off their sins.
  • There is nothing else to do.
  • Promotion of sales of the products branded as holy & socio-commercially associating them with one or more of the mythological references; hictorical value and cultural normality.

All these notions have been certified as a complete wastage of time, resources , & propagation of Manmat. Nanak sums up all these in one Tuk...

  • Bhariyy mat papa ky sang oh Dhopyy navyy ky rang.....When the hands and the feet and the body are dirty, water can wash away the dirt.. Read on.
SGGS Page 4 Full Shabad
ਭਰੀਝ ਹਥ੝ ਪੈਰ੝ ਤਨ੝ ਦੇਹ ॥ ਪਾਣੀ ਧੋਤੈ ਉਤਰਸ੝ ਖੇਹ ॥

Bẖarī­ai hath pair ṯan ḝėh. Pĝṇī ḝẖoṯai uṯras kẖėh.
When the hands and the feet and the body are dirty, water can wash away the dirt.

ਮੂਤ ਪਲੀਤੀ ਕਪੜ੝ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਦੇ ਸਾਬੂਣ੝ ਲਈਝ ਓਹ੝ ਧੋਇ ॥

Mūṯ palīṯī kapaṛ ho­ė. Ḏė sĝbūṇ la­ī­ai oh ḝẖo­ė.
When the clothes are soiled and stained by urine,soap can wash them clean.


ਭਰੀਝ ਮਤਿ ਪਾਪਾ ਕੈ ਸੰਗਿ ॥ ਓਹ੝ ਧੋਪੈ ਨਾਵੈ ਕੈ ਰੰਗਿ ॥
Bẖarī­ai maṯ pĝpĝ kai sang. Oh ḝẖopai nĝvai kai rang.
But when the intellect is stained and polluted by sin, it can only be cleansed by the Love of the Name.

All these mythological, ritualistic, irrational & subjective beliefs and actions are useless and in vain and will not remove the stain and pollution caused by a life-time of sins. This filth of the mind needs to be washed & flushed off through repeated spiritual bathing... (listening to, singing, learning & writing the quintessence of Gurbani in ones mind. One needs to focus and resolve to begin on a lifelong walk on this true path guided by the true Guru's word) - in the pure ocean of God's Language. The Guru's message tell us how to wash the filth of these sins exactly the way soap washes clothes which get soiled with dirt, mud, urine, etc.

The Sikh Gurus provide clear and simple guidance for their Sikhs - They are asked to cleanse the mind by rising it with pure Gurbani; to cultivate a humble attitude and real love for all of humanity; to shirk away from useless rituals which only elevates ones ego. The following Gurbani tuks (lines) give a picture of the Guru's vision:

  • "Neecha andar neech jaat neechee hu ati neech, Nanak tin ky sang Saath vadian so kia rees...."(this lowest of the low cast Nanak prefer to be with the Lowest of the low, humble, meekest of the meek & exploited masses....sweet nothing I care for the high & mighty).
  • "Khalik Khlk, Khalk my Khalik....." ( "The Creation is in the Creator, and the Creator is in the Creation, totally pervading and permeating all places". ...God lives in the heart of every human being.

The Sri Guru Granth Sahib warns us -

  • "The more one wanders at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, the more one talks uselessly." (sggs page 467) - so, a Sikh must discard pilgrimages, and penance which are part of Manmat
  • The Vedic culture of fasting for the well being of the husband is totally rejected by the Sikh Guru - "Kabeer, the woman who gives up meditation on the Lord, and observes the ritual fast of Ahoi, shall be reincarnated as a donkey, to carry heavy burdens. ((108))" (sggs page 1370)


  • Sikhism outright rejects fasting. Gurbani debars all human beings from engaging in rituals of any sort whatsoever. "Fasting, daily rituals, and austere self-discipline - those who keep the practice of these, are rewarded with less than a shell." (sggs page 216). So a true Sikhs will never ever undertaken a fast of any kind.
  • "No pilgrim-spot is equal to the Guru...The Guru is the river in whose water (Naam),the filth of sin and evil thoughts, are washed off." (sggs page 1329)

Pilgrimage

The futility of wandering to the so-called sacred places is amply illustrated by the life of Guru Amar Das. Before he became Guru, he went on pilgrimages twenty times, without benefit.

He saw the light only when he finally met Guru Angad. (see Sakhi) The Gurus tried to remove the notion of the efficacy of pilgrimage. Guru Nanak says: "I would like to go to pilgrimage only if it pleases God." Elsewhere, he says: "My places of pilgrimage are to study 'The Word', and contemplating its divine knowledge within me."

Guru Gobind Singh was very emphatic about the futility of pilgrimage. According to him, without God's Name, such visits have not the slightest significance. Kabir sought God in the temple of his mind. He therefore, migrated from Benaras, a well-known sacred city, to Magahar, a traditionally cursed town.

Fasting

Sikhism does not regard fasting as religiously meritorious. God has given us the human body - the temple of the soul - which has to be nourished and cared for. Fasting as an austerity, as a ritual, as a mortification of the body by means of wilful hunger is forbidden in Sikhism. Guru Nanak says: "Penance, fasting, austerity and alms-giving are inferior to 'The Truth'; right action is superior to all."

There are sects which do not eat or drink this or that during the fast. Some people will not eat cereals, but will take other types of food. Such people may be treated as hypocrites. They give up the use of certain type of food, not because they want to, but because they wish to impress others. It feeds their ego and does not earn merit in God's domain. According to Guru Nanak, true fasting is the renunciation of the fruit of one's actions.

A Sikh is encouraged to practise constant temperance and moderation in matters of food. Neither starve nor over-eat; just eat simple and nourishing food: this is the golden rule. . Healthy food but in small quantities(Alap Ahar), just to keep body and soul together and to prevent sleep and sloth, this is recommended for a Sikh. Gluttony is not only socially bad, but also morally reprehensible.

Below are Shabads from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib that give the Sikh guidance on these issues:

Against pilgrimage

SGGS Page 4 Full Shabad
ਤੀਰਥ੝ ਤਪ੝ ਦਇਆ ਦਤ੝ ਦਾਨ੝ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਪਾਵੈ ਤਿਲ ਕਾ ਮਾਨ੝ ॥

Ŧirath ṯap ḝa­i­ĝ ḝaṯ ḝĝn. Jė ko pĝvai ṯil kĝ mĝn.

Pilgrimages, austere discipline, compassion and charity -
these, by themselves, bring only an iota of merit.


SGGS Page 75 Full Shabad
ਤੀਰਥ ਵਰਤ ਸ੝ਚਿ ਸੰਜਮ੝ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਰਮ੝ ਧਰਮ੝ ਨਹੀ ਪੂਜਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਾਇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨਿਸਤਾਰਾ ਦ੝ਬਿਧਾ ਵਿਆਪੈ ਦੂਜਾ ॥੨॥

Ŧirath varaṯ sucẖ sanjam nĝhī karam ḝẖaram nahī pūjĝ. Nĝnak bẖĝ­ė bẖagaṯ nisṯĝrĝ ḝubiḝẖĝ vi­ĝpai ḝūjĝ. ॥੨॥

Pilgrimages, fasts, purification and self-discipline are of no use,
nor are rituals, religious ceremonies or empty worship.
O Nanak, emancipation comes only by loving devotional worship;
through duality, people are engrossed in duality. ॥੨॥


SGGS Page 455 Full Shabad
ਬਨ੝ ਬਨ੝ ਫਿਰਤੀ ਖੋਜਤੀ ਹਾਰੀ ਬਹ੝ ਅਵਗਾਹਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭੇਟੇ ਸਾਧ ਜਬ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥੧॥

Ban ban firṯī kẖojṯī hĝrī baho avgĝhi. Nĝnak bẖėtė sĝḝẖ jab har pĝ­i­ĝ man mĝhi. ॥੧॥
From forest to forest, I wandered searching; I am so tired of taking baths at sacred shrines of pilgrimage.
O Nanak, when I met the Holy Saint, I found the Lord within my mind. ॥੧॥


SGGS Page 1139 Full Shabad
ਹੋਮ ਜਗ ਜਪ ਤਪ ਸਭਿ ਸੰਜਮ ਤਟਿ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਮਿਟਿਆ ਆਪ੝ ਪਝ ਸਰਣਾਈ ਗ੝ਰਮ੝ਖਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਗਤ੝ ਤਰਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੧॥੧੪॥

Hom jag jap ṯap sabẖ sanjam ṯat ṯirath nahī pĝ­i­ĝ. Miti­ĝ ĝp pa­ė sarṇĝ­ī gurmukẖ Nĝnak jagaṯ ṯarĝ­i­ĝ. ॥4॥1॥14॥
Through burnt offerings, charitable feasts, ritualistic chants, penance, all sorts of austere self-discipline and pilgrimages to sacred shrines and rivers, they do not find God.
Self-conceit is only erased when one seeks the Lord's Sanctuary and becomes Gurmukh; O Nanak, he crosses over the world-ocean. ॥4॥1॥14॥

Against fasting

SGGS Page 674 Full Shabad
ਪੂਜਾ ਵਰਤ ਤਿਲਕ ਇਸਨਾਨਾ ਪ੝ੰਨ ਦਾਨ ਬਹ੝ ਦੈਨ ॥ ਕਹੂੰ ਨ ਭੀਜੈ ਸੰਜਮ ਸ੝ਆਮੀ ਬੋਲਹਿ ਮੀਠੇ ਬੈਨ ॥੧॥

Pūjĝ varaṯ ṯilak isnĝnĝ punn ḝĝn baho ḝain. Kahū­aʼn na bẖījai sanjam su­ĝmī boleh mīṯẖė bain. ॥੧॥

Worship, fasting, ceremonial marks on one's forehead, cleansing baths,
generous donations to charities and self-mortification
- the Lord Master is not pleased with any of these rituals,
no matter how sweetly one may speak. ॥੧॥

SGGS Page 324 Full Shabad
ਕਿਆ ਜਪ੝ ਕਿਆ ਤਪ੝ ਕਿਆ ਬ੝ਰਤ ਪੂਜਾ ॥ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਰਿਦੈ ਭਾਉ ਹੈ ਦੂਜਾ ॥੧॥

Ki­ĝ jap ki­ĝ ṯap ki­ĝ baraṯ pūjĝ. Jĝ kai riḝai bẖĝ­o hai ḝūjĝ. ॥੧॥

What use is chanting, and what use is penance, fasting or devotional worship,
to one whose heart is filled with the love of duality? ॥੧॥

SGGS Page 1301 Full Shabad
ਜਾਪ ਤਾਪ ਨੇਮ ਸ੝ਚਿ ਸੰਜਮ ਨਾਹੀ ਇਨ ਬਿਧੇ ਛ੝ਟਕਾਰ ॥

Jĝp ṯĝp nėm sucẖ sanjam nĝhī in biḝẖė cẖẖutkĝr.
Chanting and deep meditation, penance and austere self-discipline, fasting and
purification - salvation does not come by any of these means.


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